Cast & Crew
A documentary special profiling the career and life of actress Vivien Leigh.
Stephen Michael Harris
John M Hay
Jo Ann Lam
John Wright Stevens
Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond
For most moviegoers, Leigh's most famous role was playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), but it was not her favorite film performance (1940's Waterloo Bridge has that honor), nor was it her crowning achievement as this documentary makes clear. Leigh was first and foremost a great stage actress, and once she became a partner with Laurence Olivier, both on the stage and in private life, she continued to refine her art, even if it was often overshadowed by Olivier's reputation and fame. For a time they were the most famous celebrity couple in the theatre world and then in motion pictures. And it was a great love story while it lasted.
This early effort from Turner Entertainment presents a brief and perfunctory overview of Leigh's childhood and early stage success before rushing into her romantic infatuation with Olivier, years before she actually worked with him. When the two actors finally married, after divorcing their respective spouses, the chemistry between them was potent, on-screen and off. Volatile, passionate, playful and sometimes doting, the relationship between them became strained once Leigh's mercurial nature displayed signs of mental illness, a condition that began to emerge in 1944. As her mental condition deteriorated so did her health and in the end it was tuberculosis that hastened her demise.
Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond touches on the high and low points of her career and marriage as well as her health problems fleetingly but it does pause here and there for intriguing observations by friends and peers of the Oliviers such as John Gielgud, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Claire Bloom, Lady Redgrave, Kim Hunter and Elizabeth Ashley. Gielgud even states at one point that he thinks Leigh's decision to star in the stage revival and film version of A Streetcar Named Desire only aggravated the actress's frail mental state and may have caused her to become worse due to the disturbing psychological state of the Blanche Dubois character, one that Leigh closely identified with.
The most fascinating aspects of this documentary, narrated by a beautiful but awkwardly self-conscious Jessica Lange, are rarely seen film clips and archival footage - a newsreel of Leigh addressing British troops during the war, Leigh and Olivier relaxing at their country estate, Notley Abbey, or a peek at Vivien and Olivier in the 1955 stage production of William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.
In some ways, it is actually refreshing that the makers of Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond, despite the title, don't spend too much time on Gone with the Wind but give equal attention to such earlier efforts as That Hamilton Woman (1941) as well as late period films such as The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and Ship of Fools (1965). Viewers who are much more interested in the back story of the 1939 David O. Selznick production should seek out the definitive 1988 documentary, The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind, directed by David Hinton and written by film scholar David Thomson.
Producer: Gene Feldman, Suzette Winter
Director: Gene Feldman, Suzette Winter
Screenplay: Gene Feldman, Suzette Winter
Cinematography: Eric Camiel, Steven Harris, Kevin McKnight, Jeremy Stavenhagen
Art Direction: John Wright Stevens
Music: Michael Bacon
Film Editing: Lisa Jackson
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Ashley, Claire Bloom, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Sir John Gielgud, Radie Harris, Kim Hunter, Garson Kanin, Lady Redgrave, Stanley Kramer
by Jeff Stafford
Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
KIM HUNTER, 1922-2002
Kim Hunter, the versatile, distinguished actress who won the Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal as the long-suffering Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and appeared as Dr. Zira in three Planet of the Apes movies, died in her Greenwich Village apartment from an apparent heart attack on September 11, 2002. She was 79.
Born Janet Cole in Detroit on November 12, 1922, where her mother was a concert pianist, she made her professional debut at 17 with a small theatre company in Miami. She gained notice immediately with her strong voice and alluring presence, and eventually studied at the Actors' Studio in New York.
She made a striking film debut in an eerie, low-budget RKO horror film, The Seventh Victim (1943), produced by Val Lewton. She played a similar ingenue role in another stylish cult flick, When Strangers Meet (1944) - a film directed by William Castle and notable for featuring Robert Mitchum in one of his first starring roles. Hunter's big break came two years later when Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger cast her in their splendid romantic fantasy, Stairway to Heaven (1946).
Despite her growing popularity as a screen actress, Hunter returned to the stage to make her Broadway debut as Stella in Tennessee Williams'A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Elia Kazan adapted the production for the silver screen, she continued her role as Stella opposite Marlon Brando, and won an Oscar as best supporting actress. A few more film roles followed, but sadly her screen career entered a lull in the late 1950s, after Hunter, a liberal Democrat, was listed as a communist sympathizer by Red Channels, a red-hunting booklet that influenced hiring by studios and the Television networks. Kim was blacklisted from both mediums despite never having been labeled a Communist, yet as a strong believer in civil rights she signed a lot of petitions and was a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York. She was widely praised in the industry for her testimony to the New York Supreme Court in 1962 against the publishers of Red Channels, and helped pave the way for clearance of many performers unjustly accused of Communist associations.
Hunter spent the next few years on the stage and didn't make a strong impression again in films until she was cast as Dr. Zira in the Planet of the Apes (1968), as a simian psychiatrist in the classic science fiction film. The success of that film encouraged her to continue playing the same character in two back-to-back sequels - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Hunter spent the remainder of her career on the stage and television, but she a terrific cameo role in Clint Eastwood's Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997), one of her last films. She is survived by her daughter Kathryn, from her first marriage to William Baldwin, and her son Sean, from her marriage to actor and producer Robert Emmett.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
By Lang Thompson